Almost twenty years ago we had a well-known preacher to speak in our church. He was not only an effective preacher, but also a gifted and prolific author. In the foyer a table was set up displaying many of his books for sale to bless and help our congregation.
One of my friends who was a relatively new Christian had visited the table and returned with an armful of books. He was serious about growing spiritually and reading everything he could find.
I asked him what he had purchased and he reluctantly showed me one book, The Sin of Worry. He said, “Rick, the longer I am a Christian the more I realize how many things are wrong that I never realized were sins. I never had a clue that worry is a sin”.
My friend was right. Some of us are ignorant of things that are wrong or we excuse them because of our proneness to commit them and minimize their severity and consequences. While we are free to choose our sin, we are not free to choose the consequences.
One sin that is frequently glossed over is complaining. Though it is something we all do it still displeases God. It is a very serious matter to God. Griping makes God angry and will bring His chastening hand on us.
When Israel, God’s chosen people, was wandering in the wilderness two qualities characterized their lives: unbelief and complaining. The two are twins, where you will find one you will find the other.
Note God’s displeasure toward complaining – “And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp”. (Numbers 11:1)
Complaining was so serious to God that He took the lives of some of the people by fire from Heaven. I wonder how many of us would still be walking around today if God ended our lives when we griped? I would have died as a teenager before ever reaching adulthood!
This is an issue which we must grapple with because of it’s seriousness to God. Why is complaining so serious? The reason we excuse and treat it lightly is we think it is insignificant to God. But it isn’t! Here’s why – all complaining is ultimately directed to God.
Whenever I gripe and moan over my circumstances I am doubting and rejecting the good providence of God. An attitude of ungratefulness and a lack of faith in uncomfortable circumstances will always lead to griping. Underneath it all is discontentment with God for allowing it to happen.
Remember the definition of griping I shared in another post, speaking to someone in a negative way about something which they can do nothing about. Our words are only the external symptom of the unbelief, discontentment and ingratitude in our heart. This focus of the heart will always lead to a spirit of negativity and words that communicate frustration and anger. At the root of it all is being angry with God for permitting adversity in your life.
When we gripe it is directed at God – “And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread”. (Numbers 21:5)
The complaints of the people listed above show their preoccupation with discomfort and a negative outlook (“die in the wilderness…no bread…(no) water…our soul loatheth this light bread”). Their complaints were spoken to Moses (their leader) and to God (their Savior).
Again, we are warned that griping is against the Lord – “And Moses said…the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him…your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD”. (Exodus 16:8)
Complaining is a serious matter to God! Next time you want to gripe stop and remember it is a sin against Christ, accusing Him of not caring and being indifferent to your situation. As long as I am passive about that which is very serious to God I will continue in it without remorse or repentance. I must see griping the way God does, as a sin against Him.
Next time you are tempted to think negatively about a person, a situation, or an institution, pause and ask yourself if the one to whom you are expressing your thoughts can do anything about it. If they cannot, don’t share it.
I knew a church staff member that was disgruntled with their pastor and they had developed a negative attitude, focusing on areas of disagreement. Soon, their conversation with other staff members about the pastor was characterized by complaining and negativity.
The individual sought counsel and after being defensive about his actions was made to realize that griping was a sin. They could either leave their present ministry because of their sour spirit or stop complaining about the leader. There was no neutral ground.
At first he just resisted speaking negatively about his pastor/boss and then gradually began to replace his thoughts with the good things his pastor was doing. God didn’t change the situation the staff member was in (the pastor), but he did change the staff member through his attitude.
A chronic complainer exchanged his burdened, irritated attitude for God’s joy and peace. He was transformed and a blessing to His Heavenly Father – and to those around him.
Perhaps you are in a situation where you have been complaining. Have you ever confessed it as a sin against God? If need be, go to the person involved, humbly present your petition and share your frustration. But don’t get others involved that are not part of the solution by griping. They can’t do anything about it.
Rather than complaining, be thankful. Griping and gratitude are polar opposites. Find something good about the person, the institution or your limitation and express gratefulness to God and others for it. You will be amazed at how it changes your life – and your relationship with God.
Renowned football coach, Erk Russell said, “If you don’t have the best of everything, make the best of everything you have”. This is the attitude of a grateful person, not a griper. I know which one I want to be. We can do this, by the grace of God.
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Ephesians 5:20)